Saturday, March 06, 2010

meeting of visually impaired women

Tamilnadu, India

30 visually impaired women from different economic background, age group and educational level from all over Tamil Nadu participated in the round table discussion. The discussion was organised by Nandini Voice For The Deprived.


Highlights of the views expressed by the visually impaired women on different problems and their aspirations are given below.

Pension scheme of the government :

Ms. Asha Mary of Chennai and Ms. Indirani of Dindigul said that they were not getting any pension from the government, inspite of the fact that they have applied more than three years back.

30% of the visually impaired women who participated in the discussions confirmed that they were yet to get the pension from the Government .

This was viewed as a serious lapse on the part of the government that it could not ensure that the pension would be extended to all the visually impaired women in the state.

All the participants confirmed that the pension is sent only once in three or four months and for some months the pension is not sent at all.

The officials often give the explanation that funds have not been provided for a particular area . The participants wondered as to how the fund could be allotted for one area and not for another area under the same scheme.

Further, it was said that the post men often take upto Rs.20 for themselves, while disbursing the pension money order.

Unemployment scenario:

Several visually impaired women pointed out that they have not got single interview call even after fifteen years of registration with employment exchange.

In one case, job was offered to a visually impaired woman in a ration shop where she has to measure the commodity supplied which she cannot do by herself since she has no vision. When she expressed her inability to take up this job, she was unofficially advised to take up the help of a person with vision and share her income with the person !

Ms. Mini said that the government is giving jobs mostly only for visually impaired B.Ed. graduates as school teachers and in the case of less qualified or qualified in some other fields, the government’s support to provide them jobs is at negligible level for all practical purposes.

The private sector rarely give jobs to visually impaired women. Even if they do so in some very few cases, visually impaired women are often paid less salary for the similar job done by persons with vision.

It was said that the Government does not monitor such conditions at all and the unemployment scenario amongst the visually impaired women is extremely severe and with no indication that the conditions would improve in the immediate future. The government’s schemes in this regard is conspicuous by its absence.

Self employment pursuits :

To keep themselves above poverty conditions, visually impaired women desperately try to self employ themselves. They face problems such as in skill acquisition, finding investment money and marketing the products.

Ms. G. Vanitha said that it has become extremely difficult to get loans from the banks though the government talks about liberal loan assistance programme for the disabled persons. Getting loans depends on the whims and fancies of the bank manager who often do not even care to discuss the details. It was said that there is great need to sensitise the bank staff, so that the government’s policies can be implemented in letter and spirit.

Even in the case of self help group schemes, the visually impaired women are driven from pillar to post and several whimsical conditions are put and in one case insisting that all the visually impaired women in the self help group should come from the same locality.

Marketing their products have become an herculean task for the visually impaired women. It was suggested that the government should open several shops in various places to exclusively sell the products made by visually impaired women similar to Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan schemes.

The visually impaired women trying to sell in running trains, bus stops and platforms and other public places are often harassed by the rowdy elements and driven out by the police men.

Personal safety issues:

All the participants pointed out that they feel extremely unsafe to move around and often face instances of molestation, misbehaviour and assaults by drunken men . It was suggested that Karate should be taught to every visually impaired woman by the government and NGOs to protect themselves.

Ms. Rukmini said that many visually impaired women are virtually made to go out of their house after the death of their parents and they face desperate conditions without proper protected place to stay. It is extremely important that the government should build atleast two exclusive hostels for visually impaired women in every town.

Some hostels are now being run by NGOs and the conditions remain inadequate. The government is not monitoring such institutions at all.

Perhaps, the government can also think of encouraging NGOs to run such hostels under stringent conditions and with some financial support.

Transport :

Several visually impaired women including Ms. G.Vanitha, Ms. Thilakam pointed out several problems in moving from one place to another. In one case, when eleven of them sought to get into a transport bus, the driver refused entry saying that only two persons can get in at a time, as it would be difficult for him “to handle many visually impaired women” at the same time.

Ms. Karpagam said that she gets an impression that the bus crew hate the visually impaired people getting into the bus and often would stop at a distance from the bus stop, if they would see three or four visually impaired women waiting to get into the bus. The reserved seat in the bus is often occupied by normal people and the bus conductor rarely ask them to vacate to give place to the disabled people.

In the case of trains, the handicapped coach is no more serving the purpose, since it is insisted that the disabled persons can get into the coach only with prior reservation. Further, there is no separate queue in the reservation counter for the visually impaired persons which make it very difficult for them.

The reserved coach in the train is attached anywhere and there appear to be no standing rule in this regard, sometimes in the middle , or first or last. These are all simple matters that can be easily sorted out with proper application of mind by the officials.

In crossing the roads, the traffic police men should be given firm instructions that it is their duty to help the visually impaired women to cross the roads safely. At present, while a few police men help, many do not do so.


Ms. Kalyani said that normal people rarely marry visually impaired woman. Even in the case of visually impaired man marrying a visually impaired woman, the breakages in the marriage have become frequent.

Visually impaired mothers living alone have a tortuous existence as they have to support themselves and their children with their meager income. Educational support for such children in quality schools would greatly help them.

Unfortunately, the quality of the free education provided by the government in government owned and government aided schools particularly in rural areas are very poor and in many cases the children of the visually impaired woman often become indisciplined , creating more problem for them.

Such social issues are yet to be taken for detailed analysis by the government and the society.

Others :

It was acknowledged by Ms. Rukmini and Ms. Kalyani who are visually impaired women and with their meager income , now run a trust to help the visually impaired people , that there are several kind hearted persons in the society who readily come forward to help the visually impaired women.

But, such efforts by the individuals and NGOs cannot be substitute for the efforts of the government.

While the government announces number of schemes for the disabled and visually impaired from time to time and necessary machinery has been created to implement such measures, in actual practice, the quality of implementation of the government schemes are far less than the desirable level. Obviously, the government’s words are not matched by actions.

If one were to live as a visually impaired woman and that too at below poverty level, there cannot be a more severe condition. The government should realize that it has great responsibility and such responsibility can be adequately discharged only by sensitive, committed and responsible officials and ministers.

Today’s conditions of visually impaired women indicate that the government’s response no where match the expectations of the affected and unfortunate lot of visually impaired women.

Report By:
N. S. Venkataraman

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